How Shipping is Indispensable to the World: An Indian Perspective

The World Maritime Day, marked on September 29, 2016, is observed to give shipping due credit it deserves. The IMO or International Maritime Organization, is a global maritime regulatory authority and a subset of the United Nations that supervises the movement of international fleet and cargo transport on a day to day basis.

The theme of World Maritime Day this year was Shipping – Indispensable to the World. The depth of this theme, lies in the fact that, we as global citizens need to recognize the importance of this oldest means of trade and transport. In this post, we talk about how shipping as a means of transport is responsible for the massive chunk of positive economic growth that India is looking at.

Shipping in India

India is blessed with a vast coastline of 7500 km with 12 major ports and about 200 non-major ports. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that shipping has had a major bearing on the History of India, as we know today. Shipping opened the gates to international exchange of goods and services, starting from tea, coffee, cotton and indigo, to name a few. Fast forward, present day, India exports and imports goods and commodities in numbers that are mind boggling. The Indian merchant fleet has registered a 54 fold increase in GRT since independence to a current figure of 10.31 million GRT as on end December 2014, with a fleet of 1204 vessels.

Taking OffAn overview of Indian Shipping in terms of tonnage – Livemint.com

At a CAGR of 4.4% during the periods of 2009-10 to 2014-15, shipping is a major aspect of transport and logistics in India.

Over the years, shipbuilding has taken a major hit on a global front for India, as foreign players have lapped up key market chunks. But with upcoming initiatives and policies that support the ‘Make in India’ initiative for present day holistic development, shipbuilding, employment opportunities and above all transport and trade regulations are all set to be redefined in favour of the seafarers and maritime career aspirants.

Major Investments and Initiatives

According to the Ministry of Road Transport, Highway and Shipping, an investment of around USD 10 trillion has been sanctioned. Under the National Perspective Plan launched in January 2016, a comprehensive and holistic development along the Indian Coastline by identifying Coastal Economic Zones is underway.

Port Graph

FDI Distribution – ibef.org

Investments of varied project costs and scope are in pipeline with private players like Essar Corporation and JM Baxi Group investing a substantial capital in government led initiatives. The most ambitious of all investments is the Sagarmala Project. With an investment of about USD 15 billion, Sagarmala project is a multi-pronged development project planned to bring about port modernisation, connectivity, port-led industrialisation and coastal community development.

Another major investment being undertaken by the government is the Jal Marg Vikas Project. This project is being carried out on the river Ganga, to develop the National Waterways (like Highways) between Allahabad and Haldia (1,620 kms). The JMV project will boost internal transport in a fuel-efficient, cost-effective and an environmental friendly way facilitating the commercial navigation of at least 1,500 tonne vessels at an estimated project cost of Rs 4,200 crore.


As, the IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, “Sustainable economic growth, employment, prosperity and stability can all be enhanced, through developing maritime trade, improving port efficiency and infrastructure, and promoting sea faring as a career – especially within the developing world.”

With the current developments underway, we can expect a major boost in terms of internal water transport, more jobs in Indian Shipping, more investment in Port infrastructure, and above all, more awareness about shipping as a crucial contributor in the National economy.

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